On October 3, 2008, Rensselaer opened a bold new chapter in its legacy as the nation’s oldest technological research university. With the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, the institute had not only designed and constructed the most technologically advanced performing arts center in the country, but had initialized a radical new program integrating the methods and mindset of art, science, and engineering, laying the foundation for a new paradigm in cross-disciplinary exploration and education.
At EMPAC’s opening celebration, Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson described her vision for the center as a forum for the convergence of perspectives and launchpad for the as-yet-unknown: “EMPAC broadens and changes the way we see the world, and the way we interpret and shape the world.”
Ten years on, this vision has never stopped opening onto new perspectives, collaborations, fields of inquiry, technologies, artworks, sensory experiences, frameworks for human interaction, and meaning-making.
On the occasion of an anniversary, it’s tempting to look backward. In the first decade since the opening of the building, EMPAC has logged over 4000 days of research and artist residencies, presented over 600 cross-genre productions, commissioned and developed more than 100 new time-based artworks in disciplines spanning music, dance, theater, and visual arts, and has developed a fleet of new technologies. Productions initialized at EMPAC have premiered for the Rensselaer community before traveling the world and garnering a host of international accolades, positioning Rensselaer as a beacon within the global artistic and cultural conversation. All of this is documented in our “White Book,” Programming EMPAC, the second volume of which comes out this fall.
But to look backward is to miss the essence of what EMPAC is and does. The “time-based” work created here only exists in the span of time during which the performance meets our senses. Responding to the current state of humanity in the world, these productions collapse deep knowledge from the past and desires for the future into experiences that we can see, hear, and feel. It’s in this present space that we ourselves are transformed, again and again.
This October, EMPAC celebrates 10YEARS, not retrospectively or in anticipation of the next 10, but in the same way the center first opened and continues to open: with a diverse range of newly commissioned performances, installations, demonstrations, and talks forged in the here and now. We hope you’ll join us.